Officials in Josephine County, Ore., have moved to dismiss a lawsuit that alleged the improper destruction of a hemp crop owned and harvested by Oregonized Hemp Co. (OHC). County attorneys insist that the search warrant that led to the destruction was sound. The OHC team insists that there was no probable cause for the warrant in the first place.
The tension exemplifies some of the broader dynamics emerging in the newly legal hemp industry. Where law enforcement is adjusting to the finer legal mechanics of hemp—how to define and identify the plant—growers across the U.S. are on guard for overreaches. Litigation abounds.
The issue in this case stems from an April 22, 2019, raid on OHC’s warehouse in Williams, Ore., in the southwestern corner of the state, where more than 10,000 pounds of hemp plant material and more than 13,000 gallons of hemp extract were being stored. The Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team, Oregon State Police and Josephine County Marijuana Enforcement Team arrived at the warehouse and seized the hemp plant material and extract, as well as firearms and lab equipment.
The next day, the hemp material was destroyed by a judge’s order.
OHC owner Justin Pitts totaled the losses in excess of $2 million, according to court records. Read the initial complaint below.
Josephine County attorneys reported to court that a detective had previously determined that the Williams, Ore., warehouse was not authorized for hemp or cannabis storage or processing.
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“Although the signed warrant lacks a discussion of the factual basis for probable cause, Medford Detective [Chris] Dode’s application and affidavit contains sworn statements describing the factual basis for his warrant request,” according to the county. “By authorizing the warrant, Judge [Sarah] McGlaughlin concluded probable cause existed.”
But it remains unclear whether the plants and extract that had been seized were, in fact, hemp or cannabis with a greater THC content than 0.3%. Pitts insists that they were hemp plants, rendering the search warrant impotent in this case, citing the language, “items related to the illegal possession, manufacture or delivery of Marijuana.”
The next set of court filings are expected in early October.